The former head of the Mossad and former Knesset Member Danny Yatom reiterated the other day that one of Israel’s biggest mistakes was putting a doctor in charge of the effort to get a handle on the coronavirus inside Israel.
Yatom said that the management of the virus in Israel involves so much more than securing hospital beds and personal protection equipment (PPE) and equipping intensive care units. Those are vitally important, the former MK said, but the impact of the virus covers numerous areas outside the medical dimension of this scourge.
The debate in Israel these last few weeks — and some of the discussion here — is about whether some areas are experiencing a prolonged or delayed first breakout of the virus or the much-talked-about and feared second wave has arrived.
Usually, when an issue of such impact is happening in Israel, we watch it unfold from a distance and learn from their techniques for addressing the problem. But we’ve had that privilege revoked with the arrival of COVID-19 around the world.
While the number of COVID cases was growing exponentially, the debate in the Knesset and in medical arenas was about what type of policy should be applied to restaurants. A few days ago, the Netanyahu government adapted a policy that limits restaurants to takeout orders.
On Tuesday, the Knesset Coronavirus Committee voted to upend those rules. The MKs voted to allow restaurants to remain open and to have 20 indoor diners and up to 30 outdoor diners. The committee said they are waiting for the government to come up with a new policy that deals with the health emergency and incorporates the reality that people have to do their best to live normal lives.
Also Tuesday, Dr. Gabi Barbash, the former director of Ichilov Hospital, was spoken of as the appointment for coronavirus coordinator. (Tel Aviv's Ichilov Hospital CEO Prof. Ronni Gamzu has been appointed as the head of the new task force to combat Covid-19, ed.)
On Wednesday, Israel shortened the required quarantine time for those infected from 14 to 10 days. The health ministry said they have found that after nine days those infected have a very low ability to shed or spread the virus to others. According to the Centers for Disease Control in the United States: “The onset and duration of viral shedding and the period of infectiousness for COVID-19 are not yet known with certainty. Based on current evidence, scientists believe that persons with mild to moderate COVID-19 may shed replication-competent SARS-CoV-2 for up to 10 days following symptom onset, while a small fraction of persons with severe COVID-19, including immunocompromised persons, may shed replication-competent virus for up to 20 days. ”
Up to this point, the protocol in Israel as well as in other parts of the world was to adhere only to directives of medical professionals and scientists. As they deal with the uptick in cases in Israel there is the new realization that so much more needs to be considered while developing a proper societal approach to the virus.
And that’s where it looks like the Knesset Coronavirus Committee and their restaurant ruling comes into the picture. The people of Israel are telling the world that for the time being, we have to continue to act responsibly, but we apparently have to learn to live with the virus until one of the potential therapeutics or vaccines is proven successful and effective.
It is funny how restaurant policies have become the issue over which the Israeli tug-of-war over coronavirus is being played out. Israelis love eating out and take great pride in their eateries, restaurants, and cafés. It is as if on some culinary level the country is being eviscerated if they cannot have their favorite dining spots remain open.
We might have come to the same realization here in New York. For many, eating out, whether upscale fancy dining or fast food, is one way to measure how our community or society in general is functioning. Judging from the way in which the Knesset committee is handling this in Israel, restaurants might be the same barometer there.
Former MK Yatom was not making his comments to disparage doctors; it was about overall societal functions. He was saying that obviously it’s about functionality in hospitals and having enough beds to deal with those who are ill. But it is also about the impact on the economy — people being able to go to work, earn a living, and so on.
Several observers have pointed out that those urging lockdowns both here and in Israel are those who are either going to work or are being paid whether they go to work or not. The pressure is much more intense on those who cannot pay their rent or other bills because they are told to stay home. Mr. Yatom was saying that it is urgent that a coordinator with a broader view of the overall situation be the one to set policy and help make decisions.
One of these matters necessitating careful consideration that falls outside the realm of virus healthcare is our children’s education. Keeping kids strictly at home like the governor wants to do in California impacts dramatically on other aspects of their health that are not being considered. An online education for young children cannot be the same as in-school classes, and that’s true everywhere: Israel, New York, all around the world.
On the matter of people who are not directly impacted by their own decisions, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is a big Washington Nationals baseball fan, is throwing out the first pitch of their game on Thursday in D.C.. It’s great that the baseball season is finally getting under way, even if there will be no fans in the stands, as per his and other doctors’ directives. If playing baseball without fans in the stands helps us rid this country of the virus, so be it. But Dr. Fauci will be there. Sounds like fun. For him.
In just about 100 days, we will be voting in what looks to be the most important presidential election in modern times. It is not really about who will be the next person to lead this great country, but rather about whether or not we want this country fundamentally reworked and redefined.
Someone wrote to me recently, saying that he does not envy the job I have because it involves the need to defend Donald Trump. It was an interesting observation. It is not my job to defend President Trump, rather, I think it is imperative to do so.
Even after all these years in office, President Trump is still not a politician and seems to have difficulty playing the Washington, D.C. political game. Someone connected to the White House told me recently that though the president has a plethora of advisers on any number of issues, he still does not listen and does what his instincts tell him to do. After all, that is how he was elected against all odds in 2016.
The disappointing thing for me is that despite the president’s closeness to Israel and the Jewish community, a significant majority of Jews in this country is going to vote for Mr. Biden. In my estimation, it is an error and miscalculation and it does both Jews and Israel considerable damage.
You’ll recall that last year the president made an offhand remark about Jews who do not vote for him being “disloyal.” In the aftermath of that comment he may have learned that American Jews are anything but monolithic. In some cases, we are the opposite of that. Sometimes, we are even our worst enemy.
What is abundantly clear today is that the Democratic Party has become anti-Israel. It wasn’t always like that; it was once quite the contrary. There are many reasons why Jews should be voting for Mr. Trump. Over the next three months, we will be exploring and analyzing those reasons here. For now, let me leave you with this: It’s a mistake to vote for anyone but President Trump. If you do not see yourself doing that, hopefully over the next few weeks I will be able to convince you — or you might just come to your senses.
Larry Gordon is editor in chief of the 5 Towns Jewish Times.Contact Larry Gordon at email@example.com.